To dive into the worlds created by one’s favourite Sicilian writers can now become a reality. There is a track, going from Porto Empedocle to Caltanissetta, that touches some of the most iconic places in Sicilian literature: Pirandello’s house or Montalbano’s Vigata-inspiring Porto Empedocle, by way of natural beauties like Scala dei Turchi and Valley of the Temples to name just a few.
Would you like to find yourself in place straight out of your favourite book or film? To traverse iconic places and discover all the tiny details that made them so fascinating in the first place? To become one with a centuries-old history whose marks are indelible? If your answer is “yes” you are in luck, because in Sicily there is exactly such a place. We are talking, of course, about SS640 (state road 640) between Porto Empedocle and Caltanissetta. Doesn’t this name ring a bell to you? That is because it has been known for a while as The route of writers. In just over 75 km this road reaches a number of places closely tied to Sicilian literature. It is maybe an unusual destination but the only one that lets you experience lives, inspirations and even struggles of some personalities like Sciascia, Pirandello, Camilleri, Tomasi di Lampedusa, Russello.
Try to imagine for just a second that you are on a road trip, in good company of course, and you brought some of your favourite works by Sicilian writers. You might be trying to figure out what Montalbano’s Vigata looks like and, all of a sudden, Porto Empedocle appears in front of you and it is be crystal clear just how heavily Camilleri (who was born there), was influenced by his hometown. Do not forget to pay attention to your nose: if you suddenly smell sulphur that’s because you are getting close to Sciascia’s Racalmuto and its mines. Maybe you have a more sophisticated palate, maybe you are looking for something that is still shrouded in mystery: if that is the case, maybe you will be lucky enough to stumble into Caos, Pirandello’s birthplace, whose name the writer interpreted as a sign of his destiny to unravel the most intimate secrets of the human psyche. What about Caltanissetta, where Sciascia attended Brancati’s classes and which he visited often when he became a prominent intellectual? He would later call it “a small Athens” for its cultural life, traces of which are still present today.
If this small taste was not enough to make up your mind, then some of the extraordinary landscapes along the trek will certainly be. Because, let’s be frank, where else could you find a route that lets you bathe in literature and at the same time offers sceneries like the Valley of the Temples, the salt deposits of Realmonte or Scala dei Turchi? Let us answer: nowhere. There is no other place capable of encompassing natural beauty and human greatness, the past and the present – we forgot to mention Farm Cultural Park in Favara – with the same density as the Route of Writers. This is way the recent collapse, due to the weather, of the house of Camilleri’s grandparents caused so much unrest. The “Route of writers” association had been planning to turn it into a foundation dedicated to the writer. While the project still moves forward despite many difficulties, Sicilians themselves have been deeply saddened by the sight of a piece of their history swept away by the blind force of nature. In between al the marvels the Route offers, there is a hole that must be filled so that we can continue to enjoy a piece of road that holds its own magic.
Translated by Francesco Raciti